Go to contents


Dong-A meets mathematician-turned-lawmaker Cédric Villani of France

Dong-A meets mathematician-turned-lawmaker Cédric Villani of France

Posted July. 24, 2017 07:33,   

Updated July. 24, 2017 07:43


Dong-A meets mathematician-turned-lawmaker Cédric Villani of France
En Marche, which previously had no seat in the French general election last month, has become the largest party. The first and most notable among experts from various fields who newly entered politics is mathematical genius Cédric Villani (44).

He was a professor at University of Lyon and the director of Pierre and Marie Curie University’s Institut Henri Poincaré. In 2010, he was awarded the Fields Medal, and which is often described as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics. He is well known for his unique style such as shoulder-length hair, large spider brooch, and necktie scarf as well as active lecturing.

He was elected president of the French Parliamentary Office for the Eval‎uation of Scientific and Technological Choices on July 13. What has Villani done so far after surprisingly being entered politics one month ago? The Dong-A Ilbo interviewed him via email and asked questions last month.

Tell me how did you spend your the past month as a politician.

“It was very busy and confusing. I have a hectic schedule and it continuously changes. I had a hard time getting used to my schedule in the beginning.”

What made you decide to enter politics?

“I’ve never thought of being a politician. However, I thought that engaging in politics along with President Emmanuel Macron would be totally different, the new politics. Europe, zero ideology, development and practicality. His values are coincided with what I thought.”

Could you please describe your daily routine?

“I quit driving 10 years ago because I don’t like it. I commute from Essonne 50 kilometers away from Paris to Orsay where my office is located via train. I am developing policies while on train. I sometimes take a nap, discuss with my staff and analyze data.”

Could you explain in more detail about data?

“Data means the number of residents in my electoral district, political history of areas nearby district office. I intertwine those data and expand them to have a bigger meaning.”

The French media often report on him wearing a backpack while working. The necktie scarf is curled up to his shoulder as he walks fast. My family (wife and two children) and I will not go to summer vacation this year, which is the first time in years," he said. "I spend my time by giving food to hens or watering the plants. It’s a small luxury in the busy life."

How do you combine the mathematics on politics?

“I feel confident in that 69.36 percent of Essonne voters supported me. I don’t like to being called as a mathematician-turned-politician while engaging in politics. However, there are unlimited possibilities that mathematics could play a significant role in political activities such as voting, election rules, algorithms, cyber security and AI. Math stimulates adrenaline release. I will reform the French Parliamentary Office for the Eval‎uation of Scientific and Technological Choices.”

We met him in Paris last month, specifically in an art museum. It was quite unusual. He has been planning the conference of the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain. Last month, he was the presenter of the conference titled the speed of night that was held along with an automobile photo exhibition and discussed with musicians, astronomers, philosophers, and others from different fields on speed. It was only three days after he was elected as a lawmaker. Audiences can also see a short video clip that took Villani’s hand that solving a math problem in Seoul Museum of Art (SEMA) where the collections of Cartier Foundation are displayed.

You are a mathematician. Why are you trying to harmonize math with art?

“I believe that an encounter between math and art is the meeting between math and human. Mathematicians and musicians have a lot in common. We share abundant feeling, imagination, deep though, and despair.”

When people asked why he wore a spider brooch all the time, he has answered that it’s a secret. In his 2014 book titled “Theoreme Vivant,” he explained that he hit on ideas while solving problems by wearing the spider brooch. “I vibrantly type keyboards in a large desk by spreading my fingers widely as I learned from my piano teacher when I was young," he said. He watches animation “La Rose de Versailles” with his family and enjoys tea, music and cheese.

France has the second highest number of fields medal prize winners, after the U.S. Why do the French excel at math?

“The math is about an idea (ideal) and abstract painting and the French culture and history are rooted in them. Mathematicians exercise their imagination based on reasoning. Raymond Depardon, photographer friend of mine, took pictures of mathematicians and said, “Now I know how happy they are!””